A rare and protected ecosystem in northwest Florida
Walton County is home to 15 named coastal dune lakes along 26 miles of coastline. These lakes are a unique geographical feature and are only found in a few places in the world including Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, Oregon, and here in Walton County.
Current estimates place the lake formations around 5,000-10,000 years ago.
The lakes are mostly shallow but unique in that they share an intermittent connection with the Gulf of Mexico called outfalls.
Rainfall and other factors lead to a rising of water levels in the lakes. Eventually the sand barriers burst, and the current races away from the lake creating an outfall. When the flow lessens, the gulf water mixes back into the lake water making the lakes fresh and salt water. Over time the tide and waves build up the dunes again, and the outfall is closed until the next time.
The lakes sometimes have a dark, tea-stained look. This is not pollution, but tannic water created by pine needles, leaves and other organic matter that falls into the water and breaks down over time. If you are close enough to the water, you can see it is actually crystal clear beneath that dark exterior.
Lake Powell, the largest lake and deepest lake lies in both Walton and Bay counties. The lakes are (from west to east): Fuller Lake, Morris Lake, Campbell Lake, Stallworth Lake, Allen Lake, Oyster Lake, Draper Lake, Big Redfish Lake, Little Redfish Lake, Alligator Lake, Western Lake, Eastern Lake, Deer Lake, Camp Creek Lake and Lake Powell, adjacent to Camp Helen State Park and Inlet Beach.
Each lake is dynamic and hosts a variety of plant and animal species. They are a source of pride for residents and something the community strives to protect and preserve for generations to come.
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